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Castel Sant'Angelo was designed by the architect Demitriano and built between 123 and 129 A.D.; according to the wishes of Emperor Hadrian, to serve as his mausoleum. The 'Hadrianium' dominated the landscape, its massive hulk consisting of three overlapping cylindrical structures, surrounded by a circular fašade, topped with a bronze chariot featuring the Emperor dressed as the sun god. Inside, a spiral ramp, which still exists today, descended to the passageway which led to the grave, which housed his remains for 72 years.
With the addition of the Mura Aureliane (Aurelian wall) in 271 A.D., which fortified its strategic southern flank, the structure was converted from mausoleum to military fortress. It later came into Papal hands, after the Pope's return to Rome, from exile in Avignon, at which point battlements were added. The name Castel Sant'Angelo comes from the legend of Saint Gregorio Magno, who had a vision of an angel appearing in the fortress, and announcing the end of the Plague. In 1500 Rafaello di Montelupo created a statue of the angel which originally stood on the watchtower and is now on display in the Cortile d'Onore (court of honor).
Castel Sant'Angelo served as a jail for almost three centuries. It held such illustrious figures as: Giordano Bruno, Benvenuto Cellini, the Cagliostro and several patriots of the risorgimento movement. In 1901 while the structure was being converted into a museum, it underwent renovations which did away with medieval superstructures and restored the battlements.
Lungo Tevere, 50
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 A.M.-6:30 P.M.; closed Monday, Christmas Day, New Year's day
Entrance: fee charged
Tel.: 06 6819111
Internet site: www.beniculturali.it
How to get there: buses 23, 23D, 34, 40, 62, 280, Metro line A (Lepanto)
Wether of Rome